R505: the Flying Cloud

Episode 48: Before I Kill You, Captain Everett...

Everett, Iverson, and Pierre face Wasserman's riflemen

"Not so fast, mein Herren," came a voice from behind them.

Everett turned to see a squat man with spectacularly ugly mustache sneering at them from the doorway. From Helga’s description, he guessed this must be Jakob Wasserman, captain of the Duck. Two sailors, armed with the by-now-familiar Mauser rifles, stood by his side.

"English officers, engaged in an act of burglary?" chided Wasserman. "I wonder what the authorities will have to say about this."

"I wonder what they’d have to say about piracy," Everett replied.

"Hah." The Dutchman gave a grunt of dismissal. "Those are your authorities, and they are far away. Mine are much closer. This way, if you please."

"Should we rush them?" whispered Pierre "Those rifles will be awkward in such a confined space."

"These fellows seem to know what they’re about," Everett whispered back. "I don’t believe our situation offers much scope for negotiation. Let us proceed as he directs and hope that it improves."

Raising their hands, the three men allowed themselves to be marched down the corridor until they reached a cabin aft of the bridge. This was unexpectedly luxurious, furnished with an opulence that seemed quite out of place on a tramp steamer. Ornate brass lamps gleamed from richly paneled walls. An expensive Persian rug lay across the deck plates. They were ushered inside, where a fat man regarded them from behind a varnished mahogany desk. It was clear from his bearing that this man was in charge. His features were harsh, stern, and unforgiving: those of a man accustomed to being obeyed. His suit was tailored so severely that it almost seemed like military garb -- were it not for the shirt, which was an unattractive shade of brown, it might have resembled a German airman’s uniform from the War. He studied them with the expression a man might use when he examined an insect.

"So, Captain Everett," he said in a curt German accent, "we finally meet."

"You have me at a disadvantage," Everett noted politely.

"Yes," said the German, making no move to introduce himself. "We have been aware of your activities for quite some time. You are surprised? We knew about the beach. You have been under observation since you landed, and now we have you. We will have the woman too when she returns to pick you up."

"Yes," smirked Wasserman, "a fool and her motor launch are soon parted."

Everett shrugged, pretending indifference. "So you have us," he admitted. "What now?"

"You will tell us, " said the man, with that peculiarly Teutonic choice of phrase that went beyond the mere imperative, "what you know."

Everett thought quickly. He was hardly in a position to refuse, but the flow of information, if managed properly, could go both ways. The trick would be to provide answers -- preferably ones his interrogator already knew -- in a way that would prompt the man to ask revealing questions. Fortunately, the masters at Dulwich had felt that acting skills were an essential part of a gentleman’s education.

"This is all about the ore," he said, allowing his shoulders to slump, as if in defeat, "this ‘uraninite’."

The fat man’s eyes narrowed. "And what do you know about this ore?" Behind him, Everett felt the gunmen tense. Time, he thought, to change the subject.

"You learned of it from the Russian chemists you kidnapped on Oa Ki and now you’re gathering it for yourselves. That’s why you attacked the Viking Girl."

The man laughed. "The Swedish woman was most helpful when she loaded that cargo aboard a slow and vulnerable freighter. The Governor’s supply was not of the quality we hoped."

Everett hid his surprise. The samples they’d found aboard the Wolkenflieger had registered stronger on the radium detector. What could this mean? Where had those samples come from?

"The Governor’s supply?" he asked innocently.

"Don’t play the fool," said the German. "We know that Karlov went to you after he escaped. He will have told you of his findings on this island."

Karlov? Everett wondered. Could this be the same man who went missing in Darwin? It was worth a gamble.

"So he did," he admitted. "That’s why he purchased ore from Enterprise Creek."

"Which is now in our hands," gloated the German, "along with the refining apparatus. That fool Heinrich was one month too late to stop us."

"Your agent in Darwin must have been a big help," said Everett, guessing.

The German stared at him. "You know of the agent?" he asked dangerously.

I do now, thought Everett. Who was it, he wondered? The police chief? The mysterious Englishman who’d led the attack on their ship? He was unlikely to learn the answer now, for it seemed he was treading on dangerous ground.

"From the hijacking attempt," he said lightly. "That rather gave the game away."

"Yes," mused the German. "I suppose it would. What else have you learned?"

"You have plans for the device," said Everett. It seemed safe to assume that somewhere, at the root of this mystery, there really was a ‘device’.

The fat man leaned back to gloat. "We will have them soon enough. You can take this knowledge to your grave."

"You’re going to kill us?" protested Iverson. "You’ll never get away with it. Our government..."

"Will never even learn what became of you," said the German. He turned to Wasserman. "Take them outside, shoot them, and store the bodies in the freezer. After we’re underway, we’ll toss them overboard and let the sharks take care of the evidence."

"Ja, mein Herr."

"At least tell us what this is all about!" blurted Iverson. Everett glanced at the lieutenant in annoyance. Hadn’t he been listening? The fat man seemed annoyed as well.

"Foolish youth," he chided. "You think this is some radio drama, in which someone will arrive to rescue you at the last moment? I’m afraid life doesn’t work that way."

At that very moment, the night was interrupted by a cry.

"Odin!"

Next week: Almost Exactly Like Ragnarok, Only Different...

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